Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Update on my Herniated Disk

At this point I am able to work full days, exercise, basically do whatever I want. I have occasional flashes of pain in my shoulder and arm, but not too bad. I rarely, if ever, take any pain medication anymore.

I had a consultation with a neurosurgeon a couple of weeks ago, who told me that with this much recovery I'm not a good candidate for surgery anymore, or even for cortisone shots. Basically, I should try all my old activities and if they hurt, don't do them.

I can live with this!

Return to Nokia 9500 Place

I recently sold my Sprint Treo 650 and bought a GSM/EDGE Nokia 9500 Communicator.

You can't go home again.

Just before I was hired by Neomorphic I was the IT manager at a startup just across the street from Neomorphic in Berkeley. In these early days of digital phones I had the Nokia 9100il Communicator; limited to 9600 baud networking over the phone, and not really much bigger than other digital phones of the time. I had many a pleasant hour with my Communicator laying on the grass in Aquatic Park, reconfiguring and doing remote maintenance on my Linux servers.

Later, I sold the device but never upgraded to other Communicators because Nokia was so slow to move to modern phone services such as GPRS, at least with the Communicator. Therefore, I hopped onto the Handspring Treo wagon, first with a B&W Treo 180, then the Treo 600, then the Treo 650. They all had their limitations, but the 650 is a very powerful and elegant device, third generation Treo hardware, and most of the problems with earlier phones have been fixed.

I enjoyed my Sprint Treo 650, despite the slow and patchy service (although not slow compared to my old Communicator!) but eventually the latest Communicator, the 9500, was released, and was significantly smaller than the old ones but still supported the wonderful flip-open 640x200 coloer display, so handy for SSH sessions (although there are several free SSH clients for the Treo 6x0, they are all extremely difficult to read). I was also interested in moving from CDMA to EDGE, as it should provide a significant boost in data performance. Also, I just wanted to shake things up a bit ;)

So, I put in bids on two Nokia 9500's on Ebay, just to make certain I'd get at least one. Unfortunately, I got both of them. I ended up having to sell one of them immediately; however, they both looked and worked fine.

Then I tried to get back into the swing with the Communicator, but eventually the poor design just got to me. Not necessarily the phone itself, although it was so big and bulky compared to the Treo that I never really got used to it. However, little things mean a lot to a Mac user ;)

1. It is underpowered. Symbian is a nice multitasking OS, but it took between 30 and 60 seconds just to open the RealPlayer application; the 100 Mhz or so processor was just not up to the tasks.
2. The audio connector (the so-called "Pop Port") is really terrible; the connector falls out very easily and yet is very difficult to reconnect. You need an expensive adaptor from Nokia just to plug in a pair of regular headphones. Besides that, the audio adaptor is noisy on my car radio.
3. The headphones I bought with the built in FM were only stereo for radio broadcasts, not for internal audio! Plus, the cable is all wrong; the little FM tuner on it is kind of heavy and clumsy, it needs to be attached to something. However, the lower part of the cord is too short to allow it to be clipped to a colllar, and the upper part is too short to allow it to be attached to a belt. It would only be tolerable if you had a shirt with buttons, which I rarely do.
3. RealPlayer didn't recover well from dropouts.
4. No streaming MP3 player I could find.
5. Dataviz, to access an MS Activesync server, was $100 extra at least, whereas that funtionality is built in to a Treo (however poorly).
6. No eReader (for e-books). Although there is a version of eReader for Symbian 60, it doesn't work for Symbian Series 80 (Communicator). I hadn't realized that Symbian wasn't Symbian Everywhere. I'm used to being able to carry books around.
7. No Audible for Symbian (yet).
8. It's just too big. It is not comfortable carrying in a pocket, and Nokia's holster, which you have to purchase separately, is terrible.

Finally, it was just too much; I went back to the Treo, this time on Cingular's EDGE (enhanced GPRS) network and it works much nicer than Sprint; fewer dropouts and much faster connections and downloads. I learned my lesson.

Friday, August 26, 2005

More on Back Problems

I'm doing a lot better. I have been unable recently to sit in my office chair or drive my car without considerable pain; I am now able to do both these things. My pain meds, which before were simply useless, are now quite a lot of fun ;)

And the only things I am doing are: 1) resting 2) not running 3) not lifting weights 4) getting traction at the physiotherapist's office 5) swimming

The thing is, no one, including the first doctors I saw, gave me any real hope that I might just recover. Even my beloved wifey-wife, who is a Worker's Compensation lawyer, told me that only surgery had the possibility of given me relief. I'm glad to prove them all wrong.

Feeling better. Crossing my fingers.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

God wants me tatoo'd

Just walking along minding my own business, doing some gym exercises too soon after recovery from shoulder strain and BLAM! ... I'm shot in the arm, or at least it feels like it. Burning pain in my shoulder, the feeling of red-hot dowels being shoved down the length of my right arm, my head bent over in forced navel-contemplation.

Anyone who knows me knows that my exercise regime can be charitably described as "mild". I think the ultimate cause must either have been the bicycle accident I had a year and a half ago wherein I was forced to slam on my brakes at full flat terrain speed and managed to fly over my bicycle and land on my arms, which thereafter hurt for a couple of weeks. Or, it might have been an earlier trip to Hawaii where I slipped climbing down a rock embankment, flipped around backwards and my arms were pulled backwards at an unpleasant angle over the edge of the rockface.

My neurologist says I have a herniated disk at C5 (I think) and that surgery, such as a laminectomy, is required.

He then suggests a surgeon he knows who I later find out is no longer taking patients. I make an appointment to see (just see, no cutty cut yet) two months out in October. I'm now waiting three days for a callback from colleagues of the first surgeon. They don't make it easy, do they?

My heart is out to all that have no insurance. How could you possibly get by? If my party has something to say about it, you will.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Story of English

I remember seeing, a long time ago, a PBS documentary on the English language called "The Story of English", narrated by Robert MacNeil of the MacNeil-Lerher report. It was utterly fascinating to me, especially the parts about Anglo-Saxon, the root of English brought to England by the people from the northwestern part of present-day Germany and Holland who invaded in the centuries after the Romans left. Especially cool was the part about Frisian, still spoken in northwestern Holland, which even today is similar enough to English that recognizeable English sentences can be written in it.

Since then, I've read Bill Bryson's "The Mother Tongue" and dug into the old English roots of Tolkien's work through Professor Tom Shippey's books "The Road to Middle Earth" and "Tolkien, the Greatest Author of the 20th Century". It reamains a fascinating topic to me.

I didn't every expect to see the documentary again. It is damn near 20 years old now, and I have not seen it in the documentary sections of the DVD stores. On a whim, I recently did a search for the series on Amazon, and it was available! Still on VHS, and costing nearly a hundred bucks, but I bought it anyway and it's just as good as I remember. I'd forgotten the interesting sections on the influence of Cockney and the "Guid Scots Tongue" (and if you know me, you know why the Scottish stuff is interesting to me ;)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Partisanship is a Good Thing!

It occurs to me that, if it weren't for partisan politics, I would probably not be interested.

When I was growing up in the 70's, and just starting to become politically and socially aware, the general consensus among my peers was that politicians were all the same. Never mind the very obvious differences between the politically effective but amoral Nixon and the smart and genteel Jimmy Carter[1] (who was less polically effective). Vietnam had made the US government "the enemy". I and my peers had a strong feeling of malaise, that we really couldn't make a difference and that it wasn't worth getting involved with the "evil" government in any case. The Reagan era and Iran-Contra did little to dispel those feelings for me.

Then an interesting thing happened; Clinton was elected[2]. And everything changed; the extreme right mobilized and found that they had teeth, and went after Clinton (who, you must admit, was probably not the most liberal democratic president we've ever had) with amazing and, to my mind, way over-the-top attacks. It seemed as though interfering with Clinton and his presidency was the most important thing in the world, for no other reason that because he was a popular democrat (and the calls from the right for liberals to stop interfering with the Bush presidency seem really ironic).

Personally, this galvanized me, and continues to do so. Moderate Republicans, who might be interested in doing their jobs, rather than just attempting to gain and hold onto power, are swept aside and attacked (Jeffords, McCain, Hegel, etc.) by the controllers of their own party. They are so damned awful, in fact, that they keep me involved in politics where in normal circumstances I'd be off gazing into my own navel and watching those pretty girls go by.

Thank you Messrs. Gingrich, Frist, Hatch, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Lott, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, etc., for keeping me interested! ;)

[1] Nowadays poor R.M. Nixon is dead, but Jimmy Carter continues to try to make a difference in the world through his Carter Center (and I am a contributor).

[2] Why is it that democratic presidents have to be Southerners these days? It doesn't seem fair; Northern voters will vote for whoever is competent and has "The Right Stuff", but Southerners won't seem to vote for non-Southerners.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Plan for Iraq

Regular citizens and senators from both sides of the isle are now calling for a timetable for withdrawl from Iraq. The President refuses to set one, believing that this would send the wrong signal to the insurgency.

It seems so simple; set a timetable for withdrawl but make it conditional. We will pull out on such and such a date, but only if violence has lessened this much, or the Iraqi army is now of a certain size, etc.

As I understand it, it is our presence in a country that really incenses the Islamic extremeists. By setting a conditional timetable we use both the carrot and the stick; the extremeists have their main motivating factor removed, but only if the country is really in good shape at the time. Seems like a no-brainer to me. Who loses?

That is, of course, unless WE have no real plans to leave.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


You know what is important?

Having beautiful places to see, instead of unending urbanity.

Are you listening, City of Albany?

Friday, May 13, 2005

More on Vonage

Um, be careful if you are using Vonage and downloading with BitTorrent (I have good reason to do so, I assure you). It's pretty easy to hit your upstream limit and so interfere with your phone transmissions (which, of course, you won't hear and won't know is happening unless someone tells you).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Vonage Arrives

My new Vonage phone adapter arrived last night. It seems to be working fine, and it is mighty cheap. I love getting emailed notices of voicemail messages, and then listening to them online (which even works on my Linux worstation at work).

I'm a little disappointed at the adapter, though, which is actually a full sized Linksys broadband router. A significant selling point of the system is the portability of it, and this adapter is less than portable. It looks kind of funny having two of them on my tv (my own broadband router is a Linksys wireless router).

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Dog Smell

I'd forgotten that Laborador Retrievers smell like Captain Crunch.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


Here I am in beautiful Michigan. It's 26 degrees, and there's about 3 inches of snow. The wifey-wife can't go skiing yet because of her hip injury, so I'm satisfying my snow jones this way. Unfortunately my Mom tells me it'll all be gone by Wednesday, darn it.